Thursday, 31 January 2013

Lydd to Lade

0900hrs - Mild, sunny, sw 3 - The weather was a repeat of yesterday with an overnight band of rain quickly clearing to deliver a dry, breezy day. Had to drop the car in for some TLC at the garage in Lydd so decided to stroll home along the railway line towards the water tower and then cut across the desert to south pit.
The bushes along the route were flush with Redwings, Fieldfares, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, 2 Jays and a flock of Long-tailed tits. A Common Buzzard was patrolling the railway line and several Marsh Harriers drifted over from Dengemarsh. Part of the route borders a strip of game cover where a number of Skylarks, Mipits, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Reed Buntings were disturbed. Needless to say Red-legged Partridges were everywhere, several of which looked as though they had some Chukar ancestry judging from their bulk and extensive white lores. The habitat here always looks good for a wintering shrike, so I guess I should check it more often.
Nothing much noted across the desert apart from a Kestrel and Brown Hare. On south pit all the usual wildfowl, plus a distant Great White Egret in the `mirror` reedbed.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Foreign Parts - Isle of Sheppey

Sheppey - 0830hrs - mild, sunny, sw 4 - A change of scene today with a trip to north Kent with Marshman, the Joker and, of course Barney. As we left the Marsh the rain band passed through leaving a pretty fair sort of a day, albeit with a blustery wind. The main aim was to check out a couple of sites and take some piccies for articles. I always feel as though I`m visiting foreign parts when crossing onto the island, and always bring my passport, just in case...
En-route to Harty marshes a `ringtail` noted on farmland. From the first bend along Harty Ferry Road the fields held a distant flock of 40 Bewick`s Swans, 10 grey geese (probably White-fronts), several Marsh Harriers, a Common Buzzard and literally thousands of Woodpigeons, Stock Doves, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Starlings and winter thrushes. The fleet held a variety of common wildfowl including Shelducks and Dabchicks. Was good to hear Skylarks in song and 3 Corn Buntings `jangling` from bushes, plus a few Linnets, Goldfinch and Mipit over. From the raptor lookout the main talking point was a very pale Buzzard, of which we had good perched and flight views. At first glance it cried out to be a Roughie, (it even hovered once or twice) but on closer inspection the shape was all wrong (didn`t have long wings and tail), the white tail had brown sides and it lacked `trousers`. In flight though the underwing pattern was more like Roughie with dark carpal patches and pale under forewing and at rest the whitish breast and `face` was striking. At a distance this bird could easily be mistaken for a Roughie, but most definitely was a Common Buzzard.
Also from the ramp 2 juv Whoopers Swans over, several more Marsh Harriers and 7 very distant Common Cranes in a maize field.
Scanning across the Swale from the Ferry Inn the foreshore and fields were full of birds including Brents, Shelducks, Barwits, all the usual shorebirds, including 25 Avocets, Little Egret, and thousands more Woodpigeons - where do they all come from? At Leysdown the foreshore attracted some close Sanderlings and Turnstones, Brents, Shelducks and Redshanks.
Our next stop on the island (for a site recce) was Warden Point, an odd place which appears to be falling into the North Sea! We had a few winter thrushes and finches and not much else besides; we all agreed we wont be  be rushing back, while Barney nearly fell off the cliff ...
Elmley - A drive down the track towards the bird reserve, with flooded fields on either side, was well worth while as it delivered a smart flock of 50 Ruffs, 100 Curlews and thousands of Lapwings and Golden Plovers.

                                          Elmley Marshes

                                         Oare Marshes

Oare Marshes - With high tide approaching waders were already streaming onto the east flood with hundreds of Dunlins, Redshanks and Grey Plovers mingling with Snipe, Shoveler, Teal and a few Pintail, while the deeper water held rafts of diving ducks. Also noted Cettis Warbler, Kestrel, Reed Bunting and Rock Pipit,
Denge Wood - Final stop off on the way home was the Hawfinch stakeout at Denge Wood, but by now the wind had picked up whipping the tops of the magnificent Douglas Firs into a frenzy and as a result we drew a blank. Nice finish to the day though with a party of Siskins and Redwings over, plus Redpoll, Coal Tit, Jay and Common Buzzard.
In summary 80 species noted throughout the day with the highlights being the pale Buzzard followed by the flock of Ruff.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Rained Off

ARC - 1000hrs - Rain, cloudy, mild, sw 3 - A miserable sort of a day with low cloud, mist and drizzle throughout the morning, followed by strengthening wind and more rain in the afternoon, so not the best birding weather. A wander down to Screen hide produced a single Bearded Tit for our troubles and little else. From Hanson the usual Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Goldeneye and at least one Pintail, although just missed a Bittern prowling around in the reed bed.
From the causeway road 8 Smew and 2 Great White Egrets.
Walland Marsh - A drive across the Marsh in foul conditions revealed distant views of 140 odd Bewick`s Swans at Midley, but no sign of yesterdays Bean Geese. Not a single raptor noted due to the weather conditions,
Littlestone Beach - 1500hrs - From the Varne car park a decent showing of shorebirds included 128 Turnstones and all the other nine species. No sign of the buntings but the weather was so lousy I soon threw in the towel for the day.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Winter Wildfowl

Lade - 0900hrs - Mild, sunny, sw 3 - A fine start to the day which went steadily down hill during the afternoon as the wind and rain developed. On south pit an influx of around 200 Wigeon, plus all the usual diving ducks and a Great White Egret near the `mirrors`. An overhead trickle of Skylarks and Linnets was noteworthy.
Scotney - Following on from reports of a Red-necked Grebe yesterday thought I`d give the pits the once over this morning. At the Sussex end 500 grey geese comprised mainly Greylags but with 3 White-fronts and  a single Tundra Bean Goose, plus 75 Barnacle Geese and assorted hybrid guests. Hundreds of Lapwings and Goldies were on the grass in Kent along with 6 Curlews, 4 Ruff, 2 Redshanks and 50 Dunlins, but for a sheer spectacle the Wigeon took some beating as I estimated there to be around 5,000 on site. Also noted 2 Marsh Harriers, 4 Shelducks, 2 Mipits and a Merlin, but couldn't find a single grebe of any kind.
ARC/New Diggings - Not much change here from yesterday with 9 Smew, 3 Great White Egrets and all the usual wildfowl from the causeway road.
ps: Four Bean Geese were reported with the Bewick`s Swans on Walland Marsh this afternoon (PB).

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Local Patch

Lade - 1000hrs - mild, sunny, sw 4 - Once the rain band cleared it was sunshine all the way, along with a positively warmish wind off the Atlantic; at least when compared to last weeks easterly. However, after a day in London yesterday on grandparent duties the local patch received the full treatment this morning. On south pit a drake Smew and 3 redheads were the star birds, plus a flyover Bittern, 6 Goldeneyes on the water and a Great White Egret in the reedbed by the `mirrors`. Most of the ducks were sheltering from the stiff breeze amongst the willows where 2 Marsh Harriers were on patrol. Also noted 2 Water Rails, plenty of winter thrushes, including Mistle and Song Thrushes, Green Woodpecker and a tit flock that attracted a Chiffchaff.
Romney Salts - A quick scan from the ramp by the school yielded 50 Curlews and a large flock of gulls roosting out the high tide, plus hundreds of Woodpigeons, Stock Doves, Lapwings and Goldies. Also noted more thrushes, 10 Skylarks and winter thrushes.

                                Curlew, Romney Salts

Littlestone - The 2 Snow Buntings were in the Varne car park before being flushed by walkers towards the sand dunes, Offshore hundreds of Great Crested Grebes and a single group of 20 Red-throated Divers.
RSPB - 1430hrs - A spin round the bird reserve revealed all the usual stuff including, 8 Smew, 6 Goldeneyes and 3 Great White Egrets on ARC/New Diggings, plus hundreds of Wigeon, Goldies, Lapwings, Curlews, Common Gulls, winter thrushes, 3 Barnacle Geese and 3 Marsh Harriers on the fields at Boulderwall.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Trials of Life & Death

Dungeness RSPB  - 0930hrs - cold, cloudy, ne 2 - Another nippy old day with the temperature barely sneaking above freezing, and by late afternoon with the wind increasing it seemed even colder. However, according to the Met Office we should have the shorts out by Sunday as a warm front moves up off the Atlantic...
Anyhow, started off at New Diggings where 10 Smew included 2 `white nuns` along with 5 Goldeneyes and a mixed flock of 150 Pochard, Tufted Duck and Coot (more of which anon). On the ARC side of the causeway road 120 Shovelers and hundreds more diving duck, a few winter thrushes, Great White Egret and a Bittern flying over the lake.
For many of our birds its been a tough time of late, what with snow and ice, but one group that has prospered are the raptors, as testified by this mornings shenanigans. Along the access road we stopped by Cook`s Pool to scan the fields (where 6 Barnacle Geese lurked amongst a group of Greylags and Canadas) when I noticed a Peregrine tumbling down into a dive and smack a Wigeon
full square; the unfortunate duck exploded into a cloud of feathers and hit the turf as dead as the proverbial door nail. A large female Peregrine then swooped down, mantled the twitching duck and spent the next 5 minutes plucking and tucking into breast of Wigeon before leaving the bulk of it to the crows. Needless to say the rest of the Wigeon flock were very wary of leaving the safety of the water...
Nothing unusual in that little encounter but what followed bordered on the extraordinary. From Dennis`s hide I watched, at some distance, an adult Marsh Harrier separate a lone Coot from the flock on New Diggings and repeatedly dive bomb it as it tried to rejoin the flock. At times the harrier was standing on the Coots back in the middle of the lake with its legs under water and flapping like an Osprey about to come up with a fish! At one stage it actually lifted the Coot clear of the water before dropping it back again. This went on for about 5 minutes after which the gulls mobbed the harrier and it beat a hasty retreat. That was one lucky Coot. I estimated there to have been about 10 Marsh Harriers hunting across the bird reserve this morning, so I guess these raptors have to be at their opportunistic best to secure a meal.

 Adult female Marsh Harrier attempting to drown a Coot, New Diggings

The other two raptorial encounters were less dramatic and concerned a Sparrowhawk over by the water tower plucking what looked like a thrush, and a Kestrel by Boulderwall flying off with a probable sparrow it had just nabbed from around the feeders.
Littlestone -  1530hrs - A last look along the beach revealed the Snow Buntings feeding on the tideline and all the usual waders on the sands.
ps: Anyone planning a trip down this weekend should be in for some top class winter birding. At Dungeness there are plenty of auks, divers, Kitts and Gannets offshore, plus regular sightings this week of Velvet Scoter, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Brents and of course the wintering Glaucous Gull by the fishing boats. On the bird reserve raptors are plentiful, plus up to 16 Smew, 10 Bitterns and 5 Great White Egrets; while the scrub in the car parks and ARC willow trail has attracted one or two Firecrests and Woodcocks. A drive across Walland Marsh should yield Bewick`s and Whooper Swans, White-fronts, Merlin, Buzzard and Hen Harrier, plus Barn Owl at dusk, while Scotney is worth checking for geese and wildfowl. The seafront at Hythe is hosting 6 Purple Sandpipers and the car park and foreshore near Littlestone Lifeboat Station has 2 Snow Buntings, and if you get the tide right 10 species of shorebirds. Good birding.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, cloudy, ne 3 - Remaining nippy with occasional sleet showers, although the wind had backed off a touch. Hundreds of auks and Cormorants coming and going around the point along with reduced numbers of divers, grebes, kitts and Gannets. A shoal of sprats just offshore attracted the attention of 50 Cormorants who were repeatedly harried by gulls looking for a free meal, including the Glaucous Gull that sat atop the tractor scanning the flock. Bird of the morning though went to my first Fulmar of the year.

                                          3rd winter Glaucous Gull, Fishing Boats

                                          Snow Buntings, Varne, Littlestone

ARC/New Diggings - With the Ruddy assassins on site the ducks were understandably nervous. However, a flock of 200 diving ducks included 8 `redhead` Smew on New Diggings. On ARC hundreds more diving ducks, plus 8 Goldeneyes and 2 Shelducks. Also noted 2 Marsh Harriers and a Little Egret.
Littlestone - 1330hrs - A quick pit stop for the Snow Bunting resulted in good views in the car park, but proved difficult to digi-scope due to the stiff wind. One bird kept cocking its tail, a habit I`ve not seen before in this species.
Lade - All the usual wildfowl on south pit, plus 3 Goldeneye and a Shelduck. On the walk back we flushed a couple of Song Thrushes off the storm beaches.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Purple Sandpipers

Hythe - 0930hrs - cold, overcast, e 5 - Bitterly cold along the promenade this morning; but for a Purple Sandpiper used to living in Arctic latitudes and on the splash zone, no problem. The sea defence blocks at Stade Court and the Hythe Imperial held 3 each of these stunning little waders as they roosted out the high tide. Also noted several Turnstones and 2 Kittiwakes offshore.

                                          Purple Sandpipers, Hythe Seafront

Littlestone Beach - 1200hrs - Another look for the Snow Buntings in the Varne car park drew a blank although they were seen earlier. However, the beach was full of waders of all 10 regular wintering species including counts of 155 Knot, 300 Sanderling and 200 Dunlin. In the dunes several Song Thrushes and a Reed Bunting.
ps: A flock of grey geese over St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh around noon, heading towards Hythe, comprised 105 White-fronts and 2 Bean Geese (CP).
pps: A tripod was found at Lade Pits today and is in my possession. Anyone having lost one please contact me via e-mail or phone (details on the website).

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Song Thrushes

Littlestone Beach - 0930hrs - cold, sunny, se 4 - Had a run out with the Joker this morning commencing at the Varne for the Snow Buntings, of which there was no sign, except for a brief snatch of call. The tide was perfect for shorebirds and we noted 9 out of 10 with just Knot eluding us. Close views were had of Redshank, Barwit, Sanderling, Turnstone, Grey and Ringed Plovers. Song Thrush was bird of the day as they seemed to be everywhere, even in my back garden where they`re hardly ever seen.
RSPB - A stop by the gate delivered a mixed flock of 200 diving ducks on New Diggings that included 10 Smews and 3 Goldeneyes. Also noted Little and Great White Egrets, Water Rail and a Merlin over. ARC was partially iced and there was little to be seen from the causeway road except for the unusual sight of a Chiffchaff flying over the lake. From Hanson a couple of hundred Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall on the ice, plus 6 Goldeneyes on open water, Goldcrest on Willow Trail, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. At Boulderwall the usual Tree Sparrows on the feeders.
Scotney -  Plenty of birds here on the grass comprising mainly feral geese (Bar-headed included), Wigeon, Lapwing and Teal (CP had 3 Bean Geese earlier), plus several Dunlin and Golden Plover.

                                Feral Geese, Scotney

Galloways - A circuit of the range road produced a field full of Lapwings, Goldies, Fieldfares, 10 Skylarks and a Stonechat.
ps: The Snow Buntings were relocated in the afternoon back at the Varne (PB, MH et al).

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow Buntings

Greatstone Beach - 0800hrs - cold, overcast, light airs - A stroll down the beach to the sand dunes at Greatstone paid off with brief views of the 2 Snow Buntings reported yesterday. They flew off towards the Varne pitching back down again amongst the marram grass. Several Reed Buntings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds also noted and a flock of 12 Skylarks came in off the bay.
In contrast to the travails of the passerines the waders were getting stuck into their usual food of marine invertebrates, being largely unaffected by the cold and snow.
Lade - 1600hrs - With a glowering sky looking as though more snow was on the way we checked out the roost this evening from the aerial ramp. About 100 each of Woodpigeons and Starlings came in plus 30 mixed thrushes, 20 Collared Doves, 25 Magpies and 2 Little Egrets. A Great White Egret and 3 Marsh Harriers floated over behind the `mirrors` heading towards the bird reserve.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Jack Snipe in the Snow

Lade - 1200hrs - Cold, overcast, misty, snow, ne 2 - The much forecast snow finally arrived around day break and continued for most of the day delivering about 4" of standing snow; although it did feel milder due to lighter winds. One of the pre-requisites for moving down here seven years ago was to be within walking distance of a decent local patch and today certainly proved its worth as the car remained firmly on the driveway while Barney and I tramped the snowy wastes.
Due to the light airs much of south pit was frozen over but there was still plenty of diving duck out in the middle, including 3 Goldeneyes. Two Water Rails were picking their way along the margins and a flock of tits worked away deep within the snow covered gorse. The ponds delivered 3 Common Snipes and then at the north end a Jack Snipe, the first I`ve recorded here. More ducks were on north pit including 25 Wigeon and a Smew and several small flocks of Fieldfares and 10 Skylarks flew in off the bay. We then cut down to the beach to search for the reported 2 Snow Buntings (OL) at the Varne but without success. However, walking back along the beach beside the dunes 2 Reed Buntings and a Rock Pipit were noted feeding on marram grass seeds, before a blizzard set in as we headed for home.
The only other news was of a Waxwing feeding in a private garden on the Dungeness Estate.

                                Snowy Lade & Greatstone Beach

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Wonderful Walland

Littlestone - 1100hrs - V cold, overcast, ne 4 - A dusting of overnight snow combined with a biting easterly made for proper winter birding weather, and yet again it was another great day to be in the field. Started off opposite the old lifeboat station and worked the beach towards St Mary`s Bay where we eventually had a clean sweep of 10 species of shorebirds, including 2 Ringed Plovers, new for the year. Plenty of Common Gulls on the sands, plus distant grebes and auks out on the bay.
Walland Marsh - Cracking session on Walland with birds all over the place and dead easy to see courtesy of the snow. First stop the seed dump up near Brenzett where a flock of 30 little `uns comprised mainly Chaffinches along with 6 each of Corn Buntings and Yammers. Plenty of Fieldfares along the lane, plus Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, a Green Woodpecker and countless Woodpigeons and Rooks. The drive across the Marsh to Midley delivered hundreds more winter thrushes, corvids, Common Gulls, plus Sparrowhawk and Jay. From the triangle a distant flock of swans and geese was difficult to count but formed mainly by 116 nervous looking Bewick`s and 20 White-fronts. An adult male Hen Harrier showed well along with 5 Marsh Harriers and perched Peregrine and Common Buzzard. A walk down the edge of a stubble field was full of winter thrushes, Starling, Woodpigeons, Lapwing, Goldies and 10 Skylarks with more Blackbirds in the hedgerow and best of all 2 Woodcocks flushed from the ditch by Barney. The feeders and grain dump opposite were full of the usual finches, sparrows and tits and while I was watching a hopeful Kestrel flapped through impersonating a Sparrowhawk. After a roadside chat with the Ashford 3 it was onto Hawthorn Corner and another swan flock that contained 13 more Bewick`s amongst over a hundred Mutes. Had another view of the `grey ghost` as it flushed a small flock of Mipits and yet more thrushes from the field margin. Phew! Breathless birding.

                                Wild swans & geese, Walland Marsh

RSPB - Finished the day on the bird reserve where all the usual wildfowl noted including 3 Smew on New Excavations and 2 on Burrowes, plus 4 Great White Egrets. Plenty of activity around the car park feeders with finches and tits. Over the road 200 Shovelers amongst the ducks and an Egyptian Goose.

Friday, 18 January 2013

An Icy Blast

Lade - 0900hrs - Very cold, overcast, se 5 - By heck, a raw-bone day throughout with a scudding south-easterly coming off the continent, but as yet only a few light snow flurries late on (or as one old local sage put it the flurries resembled, "a women plucking a goose"). Anyhow, most of the ducks on Lade were sheltering amongst the willows with at least 200 each of  Teal and Pochard. Very little on north pit except for 3 Goldeneyes. Hardly any passerines seen except for singles of Mipit and Fieldfare.
Littlestone -  1300hrs - Checked the beach for Ringed Plover on an incoming tide without success. Plenty of Dunlins, Sanderlings and Curlews though, plus 20 Barwits, 15 Knots and 5 Grey Plovers. Hundreds of grebes, divers and auks on the sea.
ARC - A quick look from the causeway road and Screen hide produced all the usual wildfowl, 2 Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and a Green Woodpecker, plus a Bittern flying around looking for unfrozen shallows.
If this wind carries on for any length of time its going to be a case of survival of the fittest for many species.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Year Ticks All Round

Lade - 08000hrs - Cold, dry, sunny, light airs - Following a heavy overnight frost, when the temperature even down here on the coast plummeted to -3C, the day dawned bright and sunny once the fog had cleared. The cold snap had certainly moved thrushes from somewhere with small flocks of Redwings, Fieldfares, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds around the cottage and overhead.
Scotney - 0930hrs - Had a run out with the Joker this morning. First stop the causeway road and 2 Great Whites on New Diggings, plus hundreds of Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall on ARC where also 3 Mipits, 2 Pied Wagtails, a few more thrushes and a Dunlin. On the fields past Boulderwall we grilled a mixed flock of Greylags and Canada Geese just in case, where there was also more winter thrushes.
  Scotney was back to its best with a flock of 20 White-fronts flying in as we pulled up on the bend. The Barnacle Goose flock had returned with 86 and 8 Snow/Emperor types, plus hundreds more feral geese  roosting in the fields along with Wigeon, Lapwing and a few Goldies and Dunlins. Two Slav Grebes showed well and 20 Shelducks were on the far side of the pit along with a `redhead` Goosander and several Dabchicks. The fields by the farm entrance were also full of Wigeon and plovers, more thrushes and Starlings, plus 2 Goldeneyes and 4 Dabchicks on the water.

                                          White-fronts & Barnacle Goose, Scotney

Galloways/Dengemarsh - A circuit around the range road produced a couple of Stonechats, Kestrel, plus a Little Owl and Stock Doves on the cow barns and turkey sheds. Stacks more Wigeon on Dengemarsh and a fly through Green Sandpiper along the gully. The fields around Lydd had decent numbers of Common Gulls and a covey of 12 Red-legged Partridges.

                                          Little Owl, Dengemarsh

RSPB - The view from Hanson was relatively quiet but a trio of Goldeneyes proved entertaining with the dominant drake eventually getting his wicked way with a slutty `redhead`! Couldn`t find the tit flock on the flooded Willow Trail but there was plenty of Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler activity thereabouts. Over the road on Burrowes a pair of Smew from Dennis`s and probably 4 more Great White Egrets. By now the sun had brought forth hordes of flying insects for several Chiffchaffs to snap up in the willows opposite Firth hide. Also noted several Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Green Woodpecker.

                                          Goldeneyes, ARC

                                         Shovelers, Burrowes

Greatstone Beach  - 1430hrs - Checked the beach at high tide where 100 Sanderling and several Grey Plovers. Out on the water hundreds of distant grebes, divers and auks towards St Mary`s Bay, plus a Grey Seal.
                                          Sanderlings, Greatstone Beach

Dungeness  -First time I`ve seen the sea here devoid of birds for ages; they were of course on Lade Bay. A few gulls on the shingle by the boats included several Kittiwakes.
Another good days birding around the Peninsula with a batch of year ticks all round.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wigeon, Goosander & Skylark

Lade - 0800hrs - Cold, sunny, n 1 - A stunning morning with a light frost and bright sunshine, added to which the frozen shingle made for easy walking; and oh! for a dry shod walk after yesterday. Spectacle of the session went to a large flock of some 500 Wigeons coming in off the bay, before separating out with half landing on south pit and the remainder heading back east. Infact, the pits were covered in over a thousand ducks of all common species, plus 8 Goldeneye and a single `redhead` Goosander, my first of the year. Several Water Rails were noted along the margin while a tit flock in the willows contained a Chiffchaff. Raptors were much in evidence with 3 Marsh Harriers hunting behind the `mirrors` and singles of Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. On the walk back 2 Fieldfares and a Siskin flew over, while Barney flushed my first Skylark of 2013 off the storm beaches. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Muddy Stodmarsh

Stodmarsh - 0930hrs - Cold, dry, sunny, n 2 - Together with Marshman visited a very muddy Stodmarsh today to get some piccies for an article on the Stour Valley, in what proved to be ideal conditions with bright sunshine. We started off in the woodland where the highlight was a flock of 30 Siskins high up in the alders, plus Greater pecker, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. The open water in front of Tower hide held over a thousand ducks; mostly Teal, Pochard, Shoveler and Mallard with lesser numbers of Gadwall, Tufted Duck and singles of Pintail and ***** Duck, Little and Great Crested Grebe. Along the Lampen Wall we also noted several Marsh Harriers, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Jay, Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches. Chatted to a local who`d just photographed 6 Waxwings near the reserve entrance. We had a look on the way out and around the village without success, although a nearby kale field held a number of winter thrushes and a Jay.

                                         Barney - " where have all the birds gone"?

                                          Konik Ponies


Grove Ferry - After a spot of lunch in the car park we set off for the long slog through the mud to Marsh hide; coming from Dungeness where I wear trainers all year it was a good job we`d put the wellies on. To be fair considering the amount of water on the meadows there were few birds to be seen. The flash by the ramp was birdless until a single Dunlin flew in, while from Harrison`s hide a lone Little Egret was the only bird. David Feast`s pool wasn`t much better with just a few Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. Next was the slog through the gloop to Marsh hide where we eventually had 4 Water Pipits, 2 in the first field and 2 feeding amongst the Konik ponies, seen from the hide. The only other birds were 100 Lapwings, 50 Redwings and Fieldfares, 2 Stonechats and singles of Bearded Tit and Pied Wagtail. The walk around to the ox bows proved fruitless with only a few more Lapwings, Dunlins, winter thrushes, Green Woodpecker and Kestrel of note (the path here was positively hazardous!). On the return trudge we had good views of a ringtail heading to roost followed by, from the ramp, 6 Marsh Harriers doing likewise.
In summary, a tough old slog through the mud for little return, although the weather was brilliant and I got the piccies I wanted. Barney on the other hand was absolutely thrilled with today's excursion (and caked in mud) until we got home and I hosed him down in the garden... Not a happy chap at all.
ps: En-route to Stodmarsh we noted 6 Grey Partridges on a snow-covered field near Postling, a bird that is becoming increasingly difficult to find on the Marsh

Monday, 14 January 2013

First Flurries of Winter

Dungeness - 1000hrs - cold, overcast, wintry showers, sw 3 - A nippy old morning with snow flurries soon turning to sleet and by afternoon heavy rain. The usual melee of auks, grebes, divers, Gannets, Cormorants and Kittiwakes milling around the point, plus 80 Wigeon, 20 Teal and 15 Common Scoters down-Channel, with 25 Brents up-Channel. The 3rd winter Glaucous Gull was on the beach amongst a crowd of Herrings, Black-backs and a few Kitts.
Down at the Patch about a thousand gulls comprised mostly Bhgulls and at least one adult Yellow-legged amongst the larger gulls, plus several Razorbills fishing around the boil.
ARC/New Diggings - A few Goldeneyes and a Smew on New Diggings and all the usual common wildfowl plus a Great White Egret on ARC. Four Mipits were noteworthy due to the general paucity of passerines of late.
Lade - An afternoon visit in dreary conditions revealed little apart from common wildfowl and gulls.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

WeBS & Raptors & Crane

Lade - 0900hrs - Cold, cloudy, ne 4 - Following two days in London on grandparent duties was good to get out and about around the local patch with Barney. Needless to say the unseasonably mild weather is at an end and this morning was a proper winters runny nose job of an outing due to a biting north-easterly hacking in off the sea. Most of the ducks were on south pit with only Pochard and Teal numbers really noteworthy at 242 and 185 respectively. However, on the plus side 2 Great White Egrets were noted on both pits and 3 Marsh Harriers hunted behind the `mirrors`.
On Greatstone Beach the easterly wind had already attracted 10 kite surfers so there was little chance of counting the shorebirds. Most had pitched down on the shingle towards Lade but every so often they shifted as a kite fizzed by flushing them further along the shingle.

                                          Cormorants, Lade `mirrors`

Walland Marsh - 1430hrs - Joined Marshman for the monthly harrier count. En-route few birds noted on ARC/New Diggings from the causeway road apart from a Great White Egret; perhaps the ducks have sensed the impending change in weather...
On Walland a quick look at the swan flock opposite the flying club contained at least 70 Bewick`s, and a few more at Midley. On the marshlands reduced numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, although still around a thousand combined, plus 100 Dunlins, 4 Ruff and 3 Snipe. Once again hardly any passerines noted apart from a few Song Thrushes, 2 Stonechats and several flocks of a hundred or so Starlings. As for raptors, 16 Marsh Harriers to roost; also noted 2 Buzzards and singles of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. As the light faded Bearded Tits and Water Rails became more vocal and the Common Crane flew in to roost along with several hundred Greylags, Mutes and lastly the wild swans. Finished off with a cracking perched Barn Owl at Hawthorn Corner on the way home.

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Dungeness - 0900hrs - Cold, overcast, n 1 - Joined a gathering of locals for an hour by the fishing boats surveying a flat calm sea full of birds. Thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills swarmed around the Point and floated by along with hundreds of Kittiwakes, Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants. Several shoals of fish attracted plenty of attention, particularly from plunge diving Gannets. Also noted 25 Teal, 10 Common Scoter, 6 Brents and a Shelduck.
Lade - 1500hrs - Low numbers of wildfowl on both pits, although 8 Goldeneye was the best count of the winter so far. An odd looking diving duck on south pit turned out to be a probable aythya hybrid. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Cetti`s Warbler

Scotney - 0915hrs - Mild, overcast, drizzle, n 1- Following on from the welcome appearance yesterday of the big-yellow-thing-in-the-sky, today was a return to form and more murky conditions. Anyhow, had a run out with MH this morning stopping off first at Scotney which was again rammed with hundreds of Goldies, Lapwings and ducks, but few grey geese. In amongst the throng we located 160 Dunlins, 9 Ruffs, 2 Redshanks and 4 Pintails, while a Marsh Harrier sailed over causing the gulls to give out.
RSPB - Very little of note on Dengemarsh apart from a few Dabchicks amongst the common wildfowl. Plenty of ducks on Burrowes including 21 Pintails and 6 Goldeneyes. Over the road and a total of 7 Smews on New Diggings/ARC while from Hanson 8 Goldeneyes amongst the wildfowl. Scattered around the site we noted at least 4 Great Whites and 2 Little Egrets. Bird of the morning however was an unusually showy Cetti`s Warbler near the disabled parking bay, along with Goldcrest and calling Water Rails. This particular Cetti`s has been easyish to actually see over the past week or so.
Littlestone - 1530hrs - Checked the beach for waders but all I could manage were Oycs, Curlews and Dunlins and certainly no sign of any Ringed Plovers along the foreshore. Way out in the bay a single Common Scoter was amongst hundreds of Great Crested Grebes.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Seabirds & Wildfowl

Dungeness - 0845hrs - Mild, cloudy, sunshine! cloudy later, sw 2 - A day in the field with BH from Sussex commenced at the fishing boats with a cracking seawatch as many of the Gannets, Red-throated Divers, auks and Kittiwakes were close to shore feeding on shoals of fish. Numbers were difficult to assess but in the ascendancy were over 1,000 Guillemots and around 500 Razorbills, plus over 1,000 Great Crested Grebes. Also noted singles of Little Gull and Bonxie. On the beach old favourites in the shape of Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gulls, plus 5 Kittiwakes and 10 Turnstones.
RSPB - On ARC/New Diggings the usual hundreds of common wildfowl plus 6 each of Smew and Goldeneye, 2 Marsh Harriers and 4 Great White Egrets. At Boulderwall Tree Sparrows, Kestrel and  Stonechat. In the car park had close views of a Goldcrest plus all the usual tits and finches on the feeders. A circuit produced numerous wintering wildfowl 2 more Great Whites, Little Egrets, Dabchicks, several Marsh Harriers and a Slavonian Grebe on Hookers.
Scotney - Nowhere near the number of birds present here than at the weekend but still several hundred Wigeon, Goldies and Lapwings, also a sprinkling of Pintails, 15 Ruff and 2 Redshank. Also managed to relocate the duck Red Crested Pochard asleep on a shingle spit, presumably the same bird that`s been knocking around the bird reserve recently.
Walland Marsh  - First stop the spud field opposite the flying club and 68 Bewick`s and 2 Whooper Swans still present. Further down the lane Tree Sparrows on the feeders but no sign of any winter thrushes anywhere; infact passerines remain in short supply across farmland tracts. A walk out on the Marsh failed to deliver the Crane but we did see up to 20 Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards and a distant Peregrine, plus thousands of plovers, grey geese and wildfowl in the area. We finished in some style with stunning views of a Barn Owl hunting a sewer margin near Midley.

                                          3rd winter Glaucous Gull, Dungness

Monday, 7 January 2013

Little Gulls

Dungeness - 1000hrs - Mild, overcast, sw 2 - There have been many gloomy days of late but few as murky as today with only a Mordor like half-light penetrating the low cloud base; there would be no chance of batting on a fast track today. However, a seawatch from the hide produced all the expected divers, grebes, auks, Kittiwakes and Gannets coming and going around the point. Down at the Patch the bulk of gulls comprised over 300 Bhgs, plus a few Kittiwakes, auks and 3 Little Gulls around the boil. One was an adult and the others 1st winters, one which was much darker than the other. Few land birds noted apart from 2 Pied Wagtails on the power station. On the drive out the Glaucous Gull was seen over the fishing boats.
Lade - Precious little here on the pits with only a Goldeneye amongst the common diving ducks of interest. A couple of Marsh Harriers drifted over the back of the `mirrors` while Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers called from the willow swamp, and that was about the sum total.
The dull weather was a good excuse to return home to the laptop and catch up on some long overdue articles.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

"A Jolly Good Walk"

Lade - Dungeness - Lade - 1000hrs - Mild, misty, w 2 - This morning Mrs PT decided that what we needed was, "a jolly good walk" to try and shed some of the lard piled on over the holiday season. As we like to keep the vehicles static for at least one day a week then the walk really should start and finish at Plovers. So in gloomy, mizzly conditions we walked to Dungeness and back, a stroll of around 6 miles; Barney just loves this walk and was in his element, also the weather was perfect.
  The first section along the beach was, apart from a few gulls and crows, virtually birdless and as we rounded the Dustbin, just past the lifeboat station, a dozen bait diggers emerged from the mist busily pumping black lug from the sands at low tide. By the fishing boats the 3rd winter Glaucous Gull was on station bullying the Black-backs while an adult Yellow-legged Gull lurked amongst a Herring Gull flock. A seawatch was pointless due to thick fog. We saw no small birds until the Light Railway Cafe (hot chocolate and a kit-kat) where a few Starlings, Dunnocks and Greenfinches were noted.
  On the return leg we skirted the Trapping Area which resembled a scene from Lord of the Rings, when Frodo, Sam and Gollum cross the Marshes, such was the extent of flood water. A Little Egret  waded in a pool and apart from a few Magpies, Kestrel and Green Woodpecker that was about it birdwise. Crossing Kerton Road we walked beside the working gravel pit where a large group of gulls contained a 3rd winter Caspian Gull and 2 Kittiwakes, plus a few Coot and Tufted Ducks on the water.
  Returned home knackered and having probably the smallest return on species of birds ever seen during a 6 mile hike.

                                          Dungeness `Desert`

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Wildfowl, Waxwings & Crane

Mild, cloudy, drizzle, w 2 - Another gloomy sort of a day weather wise, but what a terrific days birding; it seemed that wherever we went the birds went too; maybe I`ll do the lottery tonight - for the first time! Crossing the causeway road stopped by the gate for a scan and 4 Goldenyes and 6 Smews on New Diggings, including a `white nun`. ARC was packed out with common wildfowl plus 3 Great White Egrets, 2 Little Egrets and Grey Heron. A Peregrine powered over causing mayhem and a few passerines were seen including 2 Mipits, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush and Goldcrest.
Walland Marsh - A stop opposite the flying club field yielded 65 Bewick`s Swans amongst the Mutes and protracted views of the `grey ghost` Hen Harrier which at times sat in the field surveying the scene, and a male Merlin. By now quite a few car loads of birders had stopped to enjoy the show and as we pulled away the 2 wintering Whooper Swans flew in to join the throng. The main body of Bewick`s were feeding on potatoes rotting in flooded furrows. Further down the lane just past the drying barns had brief views of 16 Waxwings drinking from puddles before they flew off towards Old Romney. The feeders and bushes opposite had the usual gang of sparrows and finches.
  Marshman joined us for a stroll across the Marsh where we encountered up to 10 Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and the Common Crane in a stubble field near the Woolpack. A group of 5 White-fronts was eclipsed by the wader spectacle as thousands of Lapwings and Golden Plovers swirled overhead; numbers are difficult to assess but a figure of 10,000 has been mooted and that`s probably not far off the mark. Whatever the true number it certainly is an incredible sight and in complete contrast to the paucity of small birds, although we did hear Mipit, Reed Bunting and Bearded Tit and see 2 Stonechats, 3 Greater peckers and 10 Fieldfares. Amongst the plovers were at least 50 Snipe, 20 Ruff and a handful of Dunlin.
Scotney - Whilst on the Marsh news came through of a Tundra Goose at Scotney so we soon joined the happy throng on the double bend for difficult views of a sleepy Bean Goose amongst the Grey Lags; to be fair, all I got on it was couple of head on views of the dark head and neck with a small orange patch on the stumpy bill. The Slavonian Grebe was still presnt along with 3 Brents, 12 Pintails, Shelduck and thousands more feral geese, ducks and plovers; infact the place was heaving with birds. We bid farwell to Marshman and strolled down to Scotney farm where I`ve had a few bits and pieces in the past. The farmyard held a couple of Pied Wagtails and no more but further along by the cottage we found 2 Corn Buntings, 2 Skylarks and a Yammer along with 100 Starlings.On the walk back I heard Green Sandpipers calling as 3 flew along the ditch by the conveyor belt.
RSPB - Finished off back at the bird reserve where more Smew, Great White Egrets and all the usual wildfowl noted. It had been another cracking day in the field along with a decent haul of year ticks.
(No photos I`m afraid as for some reason Blogger is not letting me post pics, probably `cause they realise they`re no good!)

Friday, 4 January 2013

Unseasonably Mild

Lade - 1100hrs - Mild, cloudy, sw 2 - A late start due to B&B guests wanting to natter the morning away. From the off it was another very mild day with myriads of flying insects around the willow swamp, much to the appreciation of a small flock of tits and Goldcrests. Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail also vocal. Marsh Harrier and Kestrel noted, but duck numbers were low with only 2 Goldeneye of interest. Hundreds of gull came to roost on the water with the approaching high tide including an adult Yellow-legged Gull.
ARC/New Diggings - 1400hrs - By now the wind had died away completely and the lakes resembled mill ponds. Over a thousand ducks were scattered across ARC, mostly Pochard, Wigeon, Gadwall and Teal, plus 6 Smew and 8 Goldeneye, but I couldn`t find the reported Scaup. From Hanson 2 Marsh Harriers and a Water Rail, plus a Bittern from Screen hide. A couple of thousand Lapwings flew in from the east and circled round looking for somewhere to landed on the flooded pit before eventually settling down on the Desert behind the water tower. On New Diggings 3 more Smew and 2 Great White Egrets.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Razorbills & Geese

Dungeness - 0830hrs - Cloudy, mild, sw 2 - Joined PB et al at the boats for a tidy little seawatch. Almost the first bird I saw was a Bonxie followed by a second bird half an hour later. Offshore DW counted 1,200 Great Crested Grebes with at least 100 Red-throated Divers on the sea and coming and going around the point. A few Gannets, Guillemots and Kitts were noted but bird of the morning was Razorbill with up to 1,000 moving down-Channel and on the sea. Also, several combined flocks of 200 Dunlin, 35 Turnstones, 5 Teal and 2 Mallards. A dead porpoise on the beach looked to be a result of by-catch from the ever wastful fishing industry judging by its lack of fins, tail and head; there must be many more that simply sink to the bottom and are never recorded, what a sad way for a beautiful mammal to end its days.

                                          Harbour Porpoise, Dungeness

                                         White-fronts, Scotney

Scotney - The seawatch was abruptly curtailed as news came through of two species of geese at Scotney. CT & BH had found 7 White-fronts and a scarce Pink-footed Goose at the Sussex end amongst hundreds of feral Grey Lags and thousands of Wigeons, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. As the locals began to arrive we were treated to riveting views of a male Hen Harrier and a Peregrine tussling high over the lake.
  An afternoon visit failed to relocate the geese but I did see the reported Slavonian Grebe at the western end by the farm. Having a bit more time a scan around also delivered 12 Pintails, 2 Shelduck, 55 Dunlin, 2 Redshank, a fly-over Snipe, 3 Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Merlin and a ringtail. As the ranges were silent and as it was high tide I tried the Midrips from Jury`s Gap; big mistake, the place was virtually birdless with just a small flock of roosting Oycs, Shelducks and Redshanks on the big pool.
  From the causeway road on the way home 2 Great White Egrets and 3 Smews on New Diggings, plus 3 Marsh Harriers heading for the Oppen Pits.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Egyptian Geese & Common Crane

Lade - 0900hrs - Mild, cloudy, drizzle later, sw 2 - After leaving Barney at home yesterday I felt it only fair to visit dog-friendly birding sites today to make amends, so spent the morning flogging the local patch. Wildfowl wise Teal and Pochard were in the ascendancy with 200 of each but there was little else of note on the water apart from 2 Goldeneyes and a Smew. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier also noted, plus calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. On the beach all the usual waders including Redshank and Grey Plover, which we dipped yesterday.
Scotney - 1400hrs - En-route to Scotney 3 Smew, 2 Goldeneye and Great White Egret on New Diggings from the causeway road. The 3 Egyptian Geese reported earlier (PB) were on the grass at the Kent end amongst the sheep. Elsewhere, 12 Pintail within the Wigeon, Teal and Pochard, 15 Shelduck but still no sign of the Barnacle flock. Walked down to the fields by the workings where a small flash held 3 Brents amongst more feral geese. Whilst scanning had distant flight views of the Common Crane over towards Cheyne Court, plus 5 Marsh Harriers and more feral geese and swans

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

105 Species

New Years Day Bird Count - 2013 - Mild, sunny, wnw 2 - Kicked off the New Year in the company of the Joker, Listman and Marshman for a `leisurely` day birding across the Romney Marsh and Low Weald. With Marshman at the wheel and a lifetime on the flatlands we criss-crossed the flooded lanes and byways in effortless style rattling up 104 species of birds and covering 61 miles. The weather today was superb after the tempest of yesterday, which together with the Bank Holiday brought forth many local birders into the field.
  First port of call was the Orlestone forest for woodland species where Tawny Owl, Jay, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, 2 woodpeckers, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, and a Siskin were the highlights. To be fair it was hard going with the best bit the area around the car park in Faggs Wood.
  Down on the Marsh and Warehorne Bridge. Always a good scanning spot which delivered our only flock of winter thrushes, singing Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Yammer, Pied Wagtail and 2 Little Egrets in a tree by the RMCanal. Driving across the Marsh we commented how bereft of birds the farmland was, particularly now the large flocks of thrushes from last month had move on.

                                         Fairfield Church, Walland Marsh

At Midley we stopped for a chat with local birders and were alerted to a single Waxwing atop a hedgerow. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Tree Sparrows, a few Mipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings also went onto the list, while opposite the model flying club field a herd of swans included at least 40 Bewicks and 2 Whooper Swans. Next stop (an inspired choice may I say...) Lydd Airport, where  although the fields were largely empty the airport apron delivered our only Stonechat and Black Redstart of the day.
  Scotney pits was full of common wildfowl, a Pintail, Golden Plovers, Dunlins, a Bittern and gulls and the only place we saw Dabchick, Shelduck and Brent Goose.

                                         Goldies, Dunlins & Lapwings, Scotney
We arrived a little late for shorebirds at Lade but still managed Curlew, Oycs, Knot, Sanderling and Barwit. Out on the bay hundreds of Great Crested Grebes, gulls, a few Gannets and a small flock of Common Scoters. Dungeness next, and by now there were people everywhere enjoying the weather. The sea was disappointing with only a few Guillemots, Gannets, Red-throated Divers and Kitts of interest, plus Turnstones, Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gulls at their usual stations.
  En-route to the bird reserve a pit stop on the causeway road racked up Goldeneyes, 6 Smews, 2 Great White Egrets, Bittern and 3 Chiffchaffs on New Diggings and ARC, plus hundreds of common wildfowl. Predictably the reserve was packed with birders, but even with all the extra eyes out in the field there was little of note on the sightings board. However, we did add to our day list a RCP at Dengemarsh, Cetti`s, Beardies and Water Rail on Hookers and Raven over Burrowes, plus more Pintails and Smews. We couldn't find a Goosander and reports of Black-necked Grebe sounded a bit stringy from the comments we heard.
  We finished the day in grand style at my favourite spot on Walland Marsh where the flooded fields and marshland held thousands of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Starlings, feral geese and wildfowl. Quality birds came thick and fast with Snipe and Ruff added to the wader tally, a `grey ghost Hen Harrier, Peregrine and stunning views of Barn Owl. At least 19 Marsh Harriers were preparing to go to roost in the area, and as we left site the evocative sound of Bewick`s Swans coming to roost on the flood against the backdrop of a stunning Marsh sunset was a fitting end to the day. As if that wasn't enough on the way back home we had a perched Barn Owl near Old Romney to end another cracking NYDay birding. Thanks to Marshman for driving, Listman for keeping the tally and the Joker for a constant stream of, well jokes, even if we had heard most of `em before!
  Also reported today was the Common Crane at Walland Marsh (BB et al) and Marsh Tit at Park Wood, Appledore (NB et al).

                                         Walland Marsh Sunset